Thursday, February 7, 2008

Dead Branches

At our house (yes, still our house) in Michigan, we had what I am pretty sure is a "Henry Lauder's Walking Stick." It was a bush that specialized in bizarrely gnarled and crooked growth. I loved it and found it fascinating. Early one summer while I was pruning away the suckers, I found a branch that had either died and broken off or had broken off and then went the way of all severed branches. Viewing myself quite fortunate, I promptly knocked off the dirt and spider webs and placed it in a vase on my mantle. There it sat for over a year admired by all, or at least my mother and mother-in-law. My mom while helping us get ready to move took some branches home with her. My mother-in-law inherited the branch formerly on our mantle. And I cut a few of my own. I patiently waited till the leaves became crunchy, removed them, and found homes in our new house for these crooked, dead-branch sculptures.

This morning while I was reading my Bible and watching the sunlight begin to filter through the clouds touching our neighborhood and finally the gray-green of the holly bush, I couldn't help but compare. The holly is strong and flexible. The branch in a vase behind the couch is brittle and fragile. The holly stretches and grows. The branch collects spider webs and loses pieces of itself when dusted. The holly supports and shelters birds and at times is rewarded in pretty messy ways. The branch suspends glass bulbs as fragile and brittle as itself but for all its effort is never rewarded messy or otherwise. The holly is in the open where great joy and great messes happen. The branch is sheltered; it doesn't feel either the joy or the mess.

The comparisons could go on and on, but I heard God speak then. Reminding me again that He is the gardener and I am His plant. I have been uprooted. I have been transplanted. The light patterns and soil are different here. The plants in this garden like to stay in their boundaries. The are more structured and a little less inviting. I am injured in this process; I am timid and I prefer to be the the invitee instead of the inviter. Despite the differences in this new garden, the Gardener is the same and I remain His. Ever mindful of my choice, in the early morning the question is asked. "Will you be transplanted here to grow, stretch, support, and live in the open, or will you let this hurt make you fragile, and brittle, a shadow of what I have for you?"

I don't like questions like that, especially in places of self-pity. I want to call out to the other plants that they are not doing as they should. For they should make me feel welcome. But the light patterns and the soil are different here. I know that my roots need to grow outward into this new soil and my branches grow toward the Son, but I fear the messes, and I whimper back to God, "I want to be the invitee!"

There isn't an answer. I don't actually need one. I know what I must do. And I start listing the things I can invite others to, the things I can bring to this garden. I think sitting behind someone's couch suspending glass bulbs and gathering cobwebs would be easier. Ahhh, but think of the songs you miss without the birds (and the messes).


  1. It sounds like you know where you are, and where you need to be. That is priceless :)
    I'm still looking . . .

  2. But for me, knowing where I am is the easy part. It is the acting on it that I find debilitating.